Level 2 isolation gowns provide a fluid-resistant barrier between health-care providers and the environment, helping to keep staff safe. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic placed immediate and significant constraints on supply chains for disposable Level 2 isolation gowns, particularly at Fraser Health facilities, which account for 75% of the Lower Mainland’s disposable gown consumption.
To address the issues of supply availability and waste, Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH), which alone constitutes 50% to 75% of Fraser Health’s disposable gown usage each week, was selected as the site of a pilot project for reusable isolation gowns.
The Surrey Memorial Hospital Isolation Gown Augmentation Project was the result of collaboration that began with PHSA Supply Chain engaging Business Initiatives & Support Services (BISS) to assess opportunities to supplement the inventory of disposable gowns with reusable products. The two departments, together with SMH Site Operations, undertook data analysis, supported the change management process, issued site-wide communications and implemented the new service model — a reusable gown rental program with health-care vendor K-Bro Linen Systems.
Kelly Rezansoff, the Site Operations manager, was very pleased with the transition. “This project was very much a collaborative approach, focusing not only on economic benefits, but environmental sustainability and provider satisfaction as well,” Kelly says.
It demonstrates that waste prevention from the source is the best way to reach our goals, and the project is a really great example of health care shifting from a linear to a circular economy.”
Initial conversations, data gathering and analysis began in June 2020, and the switch to reusable gowns began just two months later. By February 2021, reusable gowns comprised 97% of gowns used at the site. This result was a massive change from March 2020, when reusables made up only 4% of gown use. Approximately 869,000 disposable gowns were kept out of landfills or incinerators during this time, saving $45,000 in waste disposal costs.
Reusable isolation gowns can be used up to 75 times (laundered after each use). On a per-use basis, reusable gowns are nine times cheaper than disposables, resulting in $2 million of savings at Surrey Memorial Hospital between August 2020 and February 2021.
The project’s success has been attributed to multidepartment collaboration and full buy-in from all involved. SMH Site Operations plans to continue with the reusable gowns, which staff found to be comfortable and of high quality.
Peter Birovchak, regional director of Lower Mainland Laundry and Patient Transportation Services, is proud of the project. “I was happy knowing the staff were receiving a safe, reliable and local supply of reusable isolation gowns,” Peter says.
The savings achieved definitely exceeded my expectations, and knowing we had a positive impact on the environment by reducing waste output certainly gave me some peace of mind.”